On Saturday, after boarding his own antique train car for an old-timey whistle-stop through southeastern Pennsylvania, he told a cheering crowd that Mrs. Clinton has “taken different positions at different times on issues as fundamental as trade, or even the war, to suit the politics of the moment. And when she gets caught at it, the notion is, well, you know what, that’s just politics.”
The candidate’s train rolled past galloping brown horses, farms and silos, wooden house frames, sheep and people waving from cars parked in the middle of green fields. Mr. Obama smiled and waved back.
Then at the next stop, in Paoli, he said, “Her basic argument is that the slash-and burn, say-anything, do-anything, special-interest-driven politics is how it works.” He added, “What’s happened is, Senator Clinton has internalized a lot of the strategies and tactics that have made Washington such a miserable place, where all we do is bicker and all we do is fight.”
At a rally under the green-tiled dome of the Harrisburg statehouse that evening, thousands of onlookers heard him eviscerate his current and potential opponent again.
“I don’t mind the silly-season politics,” Obama said at a certain point. He then argued that the difference between his campaign and Mrs. Clinton’s was “we are not trying to feed people cynicism.”
After ditching the train for cars and press buses on Sunday, the campaign headed to Reading, where Mr. Obama explained, “Our campaign’s not perfect. You get elbowed enough, eventually, you start throwing some elbows back.”
By the time Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, had driven past the shuttered steel mills, dismal houses, gutted cars, strip clubs, auto body shops and signs advertising “$5 Keystone Light 6 Packs To Go” on the road from McKeesport to Pittsburgh on Monday evening, he had perfected his act.
Surrounded by nearly 10,000 supporters on a stage in the middle of the University of Pittsburgh’s basketball arena, he gave a final Pennsylvania performance.
“We can’t afford Bush economic policies or foreign policies, and that’s why w
e can’t afford John McCain to be our next president,” Mr. Obama thundered.
And, explaining his naked aggression toward Mrs. Clinton, this: “If you get enough kitchen sinks thrown at you, at some point you start responding, and if you got enough elbows at you, you got to kind of throw one once in a while to make sure that people don’t think you don’t know what’s going on.”